Consciousness After Death: Strange Tales From the Frontiers of Resuscitation Medicine
Posted on 15 May 2013, 17:57
Sam Parnia practices resuscitation medicine. In other words, he helps bring people back from the dead — and some return with stories. Their tales could help save lives, and even challenge traditional scientific ideas about the nature of consciousness.
“The evidence we have so far is that human consciousness does not become annihilated,” said Parnia, a doctor at Stony Brook University Hospital and director of the school’s resuscitation research program. “It continues for a few hours after death, albeit in a hibernated state we cannot see from the outside.”
Resuscitation medicine grew out of the mid-twentieth century discovery of CPR, the medical procedure by which hearts that have stopped beating are revived. Originally effective for a few minutes after cardiac arrest, advances in CPR have pushed that time to a half-hour or more.
New techniques promise to even further extend the boundary between life and death. At the same time, experiences reported by resuscitated people sometimes defy what’s thought to be possible. They claim to have seen and heard things, though activity in their brains appears to have stopped.
It sounds supernatural, and if their memories are accurate and their brains really have stopped, it’s neurologically inexplicable, at least with what’s now known. Parnia, leader of the Human Consciousness Project’s AWARE study, which documents after-death experiences in 25 hospitals across North America and Europe, is studying the phenomenon scientifically.
Parnia discusses his work in the new book Erasing Death: The Science That Is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death. Wired talked to Parnia about resuscitation and the nature of consciousness.
Wired: In the book you say that death is not a moment in time, but a process. What do you mean by that?
Why science is taking near-death experiences seriously
Posted on 15 May 2013, 14:42
“In one I saw the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and there was certainly an extraordinary sense of warmth, communality and progress,” said the novelist Fay Weldon this week. The 81-year-old was describing two near-death experiences she had in hospital following heart problems. “The other time I saw pearly gates in garish, Hindu-type colours. They were double-glazed and when they were pushed back I got a rather convincing glimpse of the other side.”
Belief in the paranormal reflects normal brain activity carried to an extreme.
Posted on 14 October 2012, 16:13
It wasn’t immediately obvious to Walter Semkiw that he was the reincarnation of John Adams. Adams was a lawyer and rabble-rouser who helped overthrow a government; Semkiw is a doctor who has never so much as challenged a parking ticket. The second president was balding and wore a powdered wig; Semkiw has a full head of hair. But in 1984, a psychic told the then medical resident and psychiatrist-in-training that he is the reincarnation of a major figure of the Revolution, possibly Adams. Once Semkiw got over his skepticism—as a student of the human mind, he was of course familiar with “how people get misled and believe something that might not be true,” he recalls—he wasn’t going to let superficial dissimilarities dissuade him so easily. As he researched Adams’s life, Semkiw began finding many tantalizing details. For instance, Adams described his handwriting as “tight-fisted and concise”—“just like mine,” Semkiw realized. He also saw an echo of himself in Adams’s dedication to the cause of independence from England. “I can be very passionate,” Semkiw says. The details accumulated and, after much deliberation, Semkiw went with his scientific side, dismissing the reincarnation idea.
But one day in 1995, when Semkiw was the medical director for Unocal 76, the oil company, he heard a voice in his head intoning, “Study the life of Adams!” Now he found details much more telling than those silly coincidences he had learned a dozen years earlier. He looked quite a bit like the second president, Semkiw realized. Adams’s description of parishioners in church pews as resembling rows of cabbages was “something I would have said,” Semkiw realized. “We are both very visual.” And surely it was telling that Unocal’s slogan was “the spirit of ‘76.” It was all so persuasive, thought Semkiw, who is now a doctor at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group in California, that as a man of science and reason whose work requires him to critically evaluate empirical evidence, he had to accept that he was Adams reincarnated.
Neurosurgeon has afterlife experience during Near Death Experience
Posted on 08 October 2012, 8:46
There are increasing numbers of Near Death Experiences (NDE) being reported these days and often from credible witnesses. This one is particularly interesting because it happened to a neurosurgeon who was in a coma and knowing a little about brain function, I would say he’s a sort of expert witness. If you have 10 minutes to spare it’s well worth a read.
Brilliant Scientists Are Open-Minded about Paranormal Stuff, So Why Not You? by John Horgan
Posted on 20 July 2012, 16:52
In last week’s post on the Turing Test, I mentioned a fact I stumbled on in the Alan Turing exhibit at the Science Museum in London. The pioneering computer theorist was a believer in telepathy, or mind-reading. (Turing was apparently impressed by the card-guessing experiments of J.B. Rhine.) Then, last weekend, I learned that a prominent scientist whom I once interviewed had had a vivid vision of the violent death of his child shortly before it happened, an example of clairvoyance. Serious scientists aren’t supposed to believe in paranormal phenomena, sometimes called “psi,” and yet some serious scientists do. I thought it would be fun to list a few, starting with ones who, like Turing, have passed into the great beyond.
Psychologist William James served as the first president of the American Society for Psychical Research, which investigated paranormal phenomena, including ghosts. In his essay “What Psychical Research Has Accomplished,” published in the late 1890s, James called a ghost-channeling medium, Leonora Piper, a “white crow” who had shaken his skeptical materialism.
“I cannot resist the conviction,” James wrote, “that knowledge appears which she has never gained by the ordinary waking use of her eyes and ears and wits. What the source of this knowledge may be I know not, and have not the glimmer of an explanatory suggestion to make; but from admitting the fact of such knowledge I can see no escape. So when I turn to the rest of the evidence, ghosts and all, I cannot carry with me the irreversibly negative bias of the ‘rigorously scientific’ mind, with its presumption as to what the true order of nature ought to be. I feel as if, though the evidence be flimsy in spots, it may nevertheless collectively carry heavy weight. The rigorously scientific mind may, in truth, easily overshoot the mark. Science means, first of all, a certain dispassionate method. To suppose that it means a certain set of results that one should pin one’s faith upon and hug forever is sadly to mistake its genius, and degrades the scientific body to the status of a sect.”
Does Death Exist? New Theory Says ‘No’ by Robert Lanza, M.D.
Posted on 09 May 2012, 13:55
Many of us fear death. We believe in death because we have been told we will die. We associate ourselves with the body, and we know that bodies die. But a new scientific theory suggests that death is not the terminal event we think.
One well-known aspect of quantum physics is that certain observations cannot be predicted absolutely. Instead, there is a range of possible observations each with a different probability. One mainstream explanation, the “many-worlds” interpretation, states that each of these possible observations corresponds to a different universe (the ‘multiverse’). A new scientific theory - called biocentrism - refines these ideas. There are an infinite number of universes, and everything that could possibly happen occurs in some universe. Death does not exist in any real sense in these scenarios. All possible universes exist simultaneously, regardless of what happens in any of them. Although individual bodies are destined to self-destruct, the alive feeling - the ‘Who am I?’- is just a 20-watt fountain of energy operating in the brain. But this energy doesn’t go away at death. One of the surest axioms of science is that energy never dies; it can neither be created nor destroyed. But does this energy transcend from one world to the other?
Consider an experiment that was recently published in the journal Science showing that scientists could retroactively change something that had happened in the past. Particles had to decide how to behave when they hit a beam splitter. Later on, the experimenter could turn a second switch on or off. It turns out that what the observer decided at that point, determined what the particle did in the past. Regardless of the choice you, the observer, make, it is you who will experience the outcomes that will result. The linkages between these various histories and universes transcend our ordinary classical ideas of space and time. Think of the 20-watts of energy as simply holo-projecting either this or that result onto a screen. Whether you turn the second beam splitter on or off, it’s still the same battery or agent responsible for the projection.
According to Biocentrism, space and time are not the hard objects we think. Wave your hand through the air - if you take everything away, what’s left? Nothing. The same thing applies for time. You can’t see anything through the bone that surrounds your brain. Everything you see and experience right now is a whirl of information occurring in your mind. Space and time are simply the tools for putting everything together.
“The Prison of the Senses” by Fredrick Myers via Geraldine Cummins – Your present surroundings are, in a sense, your creation, in that you are mentally so unemancipated, your nerves and senses convey to you your perception of life. If you were capable of focusing your ego or daily consciousness within your deeper mind, if in short you trained yourself to pass into a thought compound from which form, as the senses convey it, were absent, the material world would vanish. Read here